With the continued concern about swine flu, I have been praying more deeply. I felt led to look up the word "virus" in the dictionary. One definition surprised me: venom. This immediately led my thought to the biblical image of the serpent, which appears famously in Genesis, tempting Eve, and in Revelation as "the great red dragon."
So what does a serpent have to do with swine flu? It occurred to me that viruses are the material manifestation of the age-old serpent thought, tempting humanity to believe that evil has power. When urging Eve to eat the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, the serpent claims, "You will not surely die ... For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil" (Gen. 3:4, 5, New International Version). And look what happened when Eve decided to have her eyes opened to the power of evil: As the allegory goes, she and Adam were driven out of paradise and into a life of pain and suffering.
The serpent continues to slither into human consciousness today, urging us to believe that God's all-good universe can be contaminated with evil. Viruses, and the bacteria causing them, are generally characterized by rapid change and spread. The word "viral" is used today to mean spreading wildly without assistance (as in viral marketing). These are perfect characterizations of fearful human thought. Fear leaps from thought to thought, taking on new forms with every news story. The epidemic is essentially more mental than physical.
What is our salvation from epidemic fear and its physical manifestation as disease? It is to accept as law the Bible's assurance that God, good, overrules and casts out all evil. "And the great dragon was cast out, that old serpent, called the Devil, and Satan, which deceiveth the whole world" (Rev. 12:9).
Healing viral fear involves first being alert to the deceitful, serpentine suggestions that accost our thought. These suggestions are not our thoughts; they are an invention of what St. Paul called "the carnal mind," which he said is "enmity against God" (Rom. 8:7), and which desperately seeks a host. Defending ourselves from this mental intrusion involves standing firm with the Psalmist in saying, "In God I have put my trust; I will not fear what flesh can do unto me" (56:4). It's important to vigilantly guard our thought against the invasion of the serpent, in whatever form, that would usher us out of confidence in God's care and into a life of fear.
Mary Baker Eddy, who discovered and founded Christian Science, had this assurance for readers of her book "Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures": "What if the old dragon should send forth a new flood to drown the Christ-idea? He can neither drown your voice with its roar, nor again sink the world into the deep waters of chaos and old night" (p. 570).
Not long ago I found myself in a mental malaise, feeling hopeless about the barrage of challenges our planet faced, from possible pandemic to bleak economy. The funk quickly spread to my personal life – worry about children, my own body and bank account, even resentment about the weather. The image of the serpent whispering to Eve came to mind, and I saw the serpent of fear slithering into my own thought, sowing a seed of doubt here, a fearful worry there. Once the real enemy was uncovered – the suggestion that evil can invade God's domain – I quickly began to confront and correct the fears one by one, by knowing God's loving control over every detail of His universe. Within 10 minutes, I was free from this viral fear and able to see myself, my family, and my world as safe in Love's keeping.
The wisdom of the Bible may seem irrelevant to modern calamities, in which solutions are expected to come only from material means. But biblical messages of truth remain potent antidotes to the venom of today's serpents. And understanding them will bring healing and abundant proof of God's tender, constant care for His creation.